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Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrating Poetry Month {Mini Reviews}: May B., Exposed, and Orchards

I'm continuing my celebration of Poetry Month with three mini reviews of books written in verse.
(all books provided by Random House for review)

May B.
by Caroline Starr Rose
Random House
Purchase: Amazon/B&N/Indiebound
I’ve known it since last night:It’s been too long to expect them to return.Something’s happened.
May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again.
Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

Caroline Starr Rose's May B. is an inspiring and captivating story of one young girl's heroic struggle for survival. May B. is sent to live and work for new neighbors 15 long miles away from home, but when the unthinkable happens, May B. finds herself alone in the soddy during the harsh winter months. May B. must survive the cold weather with a dwindling supply of food and the threat of wild animals and unwanted guests.

Caroline Starr Rose writes in simple, yet lovely verse from the point of view of her unforgettable heroine, May B. Within these poetic lines, Rose paints a vivid, almost touchable, picture of a harsh prairie winter in the 1800's. For most of the book, May B. is alone, allowing for a very limited amount of dialogue, and instead creating a poignant character study of young, brave May B. I was completely riveted by May B's harrowing long months in that soddy and found her to be such a strong, lovable heroine. Rose also beautifully explores May B's struggle with a reading disorder that didn't yet have a name in May's time.

Readers of all ages will be awed by May B's story and transfixed by Rose's effective verse.

Caroline Starr Rose
Site / Goodreads / Facebook
CAROLINE STARR ROSE spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books by Laura Ingalls, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and went on to teach both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, the freedom to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. Visit her at


by Kimberly Marcus
Random House
Purchase: Amazon/B&N/Indiebound
In the dim light of the darkroom/I'm alone, but not for long.As white turns to gray, Kate is with me.background of the dance studio blurred,so the focus is all on her--legs extended in a perfect soaring split.The straight line to my squiggle, my forever-best friend.
Sixteen-year-old Liz is Photogirl—sharp, focused, and confident in what she sees through her camera lens, confident that she and Kate will be best friends forever. But everything changes in one blurry night. Suddenly, Kate is avoiding her and people are looking the other way she passes in the halls. As the aftershocks from a startling accusation rip through Liz's world, everything she thought she knew about photography, family, friendship, and herself shifts out of focus. What happens when the picture you see no longer makes sense? Told in breathtaking, searingly raw free verse, Kimberly Marcus's unforgettable debut will appeal to fans of Ellen Hopkins and Laurie Halse Anderson.
Kimberly Marcus' Exposed is a breathtaking and heart-achingly honest glimpse into the life of 16 year old Liz, as a painful accusation rips into everything and everyone she thought she knew. Told in electric and stunning verse, this story devastated me in the most beautiful way.

I don't want to spoil the story for anyone, so I won't go into much detail about what is accused, who is accused, and who does the accusing, but just know that Marcus hits upon a very relevant topic. Liz sees the world through the lens of her camera and Marcus explores the idea of perspective in a really profound and smart way. This is a story that will evoke very strong emotions, as it should. It made me feel a dozen different things, many times within the span of only a few verses.

Could Exposed be told through, and work, as traditional prose? Sure. But the clipped, fractured verse captures Liz's shattered world so well and creates such a powerful statement.

Exposed is intended for a YA audience and deals with some heavy and dark stuff, but it will leave readers thoughtful and moved.

Kimberly Marcus
Site / Goodreads 
KIMBERLY MARCUS lives with her husband and two children near the beach in Massachusetts, not far from the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. She is a clinical social worker specializing in the treatment of childhood and adolescent trauma. Exposed is her first novel. You can visit her on the Web at


by Holly Thompson
Random House
Purchase: Amazon/B&N/Indiebound
After a classmate commits suicide, Kana Goldberg—a half-Japanese, half-Jewish American—wonders who is responsible. She and her cliquey friends said some thoughtless things to the girl. Hoping that Kana will reflect on her behavior, her parents pack her off to her mother's ancestral home in Japan for the summer. There Kana spends hours under the hot sun tending to her family's mikan orange groves.Kana's mixed heritage makes it hard to fit in at first, especially under the critical eye of her traditional grandmother, who has never accepted Kana's father. But as the summer unfolds, Kana gets to know her relatives, Japan, and village culture, and she begins to process the pain and guilt she feels about the tragedy back home. Then news about a friend sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again.
Holly Thompson's Orchards is told in gorgeous and thought-provoking prose as it explores the summer in one young girl's life as she travels to Japan. Kana is half Japanese, half Jewish, and when a classmate commits suicide, her parents send her to relatives for the summer to reflect on what happened.

Thompson explores grief, guilt, cultural differences, mental illness, and so much more in a really honest and captivating way. She sets out to asks readers and explore the question “Who's to blame for this young girl's suicide?”, while allowing the effects of this event to play out organically and with such heart-wrenching emotion around Kana and her classmates. 

Orchards has a quiet and subtle intensity, found below the vivid descriptions of Japan and insightful musings of one confused, grieving young girl. Kana's story is an unforgettable and poignant one.  

Holly Thompson
Site / Goodreads / Twitter
Holly Thompson was raised in New England, earned her B.A. in biology from Mount Holyoke College and her M.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing/​fiction from New York University. Long-time resident of Japan, she is a lecturer at Yokohama City University, where she teaches creative writing, academic writing, short stories and American culture.

1 comment:

Batch of Books said...

All three of these books sound really good!